Visiting a medical physician can raise many apprehensions for patients. It is fairly common that the time spent by the patient while waiting to see the doctor itself hikes up their anxiety levels drastically. It is important for the physician to note that the patient probably spends only 10 minutes with them and a majority of the time is spent in the waiting area. So every physician must ensure the comfort of his patients in the waiting room.
According to a 2013 survey conducted by Software Advice in the United States of America, out of 5000 patients, 90% are irritated and aggravated by the prolonged waiting time at medical clinics. This leads to patients getting irritated and venting out their frustration by writing bad comments on doctors’ portals.
To make for a happy, cheerful, and stress-free atmosphere, it is essential to make the waiting room comfortable. This will put the patients at ease as the waiting area is the first exposure of the patient to the medical center. Methods mentioned below can help to keep your patient entertained, occupied, and also productive.
● As the first impression is the most important, it is critical to maintain a simple and pleasant decor at your setup. A warm welcome by well-trained staff will reduce stress levels instantly. Individual attention should be given to all patients to alleviate their fears and apprehensions. Answering any questions they might have regarding the doctor’s presence, waiting time, etc. should be courteously and promptly attended.
● The waiting room should be painted in neutral colours like shades of white and light blue. This helps to maintain a pleasant and soothing atmosphere. Thorough cleanliness should be maintained and the floor and furniture should be spotlessly clean and neatly arranged.
● Keeping a fish tank in your medical centre is an ideal way to relax your patients and keep them distracted.
● Lots of neat and well maintained plants also add colour and life to the waiting room. They also keep the air fresh and clean.
● Put up patient education posters on the walls. Articles on medical topics from magazines and newspapers would not only keep your patients educated, but occupied while they wait to see you.
● You can prepare your own patient education pamphlets and make them available for reading in your reading area.
● Local newspapers, few entertainment magazines and news magazines can be made available. It helps to have recent issues that are not torn or out of date.
● For a paediatric practice, it’s a good idea to keep some children’s books and non-noisy toys.
● If you are planning to equip the waiting room with a television set or a DVD player, make sure you play interesting programs related to the practice you specialise in. If it’s a dental clinic, programs related to oral dental hygiene might be useful. If certain procedures are conducted in your clinic, then a simple presentation on how it is conducted can be shown. This helps the patients get mentally prepared.
● With advancements in technology, another innovative idea would be to provide tablets with specific apps that help to communicate with the patient, providing latest information regarding your medical setup. Apps which help to collect patient data and record it electronically will also help to make use of the waiting time and reduce work load of the staff. This method is expensive but is very useful given all data is progressively digitised.
Little changes in the waiting area turn time into an asset rather than a liability. It is important to keep patients happy and stress-free by emptying waiting rooms faster and still keeping a busy practice.
Contributed by Dr. Rachita Narsaria
How to Treat Patient Wait-Time Woes, a report from Software Advice